As tourists, John and I had a rather superficial experience of New Orleans. With the French Quarter as our playground, we saw little evidence of Katrina’s destruction. In fact, the downtown area weathered the storm mostly unscathed, suffering only wind damage (according to our airport cabbie).
We noticed lots of vacant rental spaces, but we were told business had been in a slump well before the hurricane. On our visit, shops and restaurants seemed bustling with activity. And Bourbon Street was the same insane debauchery I had remembered from a decade ago.
On our last day, the cabbie drove us through a very nice suburban neighborhood not far from the airport. The homes were beautiful, all-brick structures but two years after the storm, this area still awaited electricity. Watermarks on columns under the overpass showed water levels as high as 7 feet. The water had remained at this level for 6-7 weeks. While the homes were magnificent on the outside, their insides required complete gutting. After being underwater for six weeks, everything had to go– furniture, appliances, utility lines, everything.
Obviously, rebuilding takes time. The sad news is, it’s taking longer than it should. At the conference, we met some of the amazing people credited with helping the community move forward. Among the online resources that have sprouted are Louisiana Rebuilds and NENA (Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association). I hope you’ll consider making a donation.